You Seek Knowledge: Mas Amedda, the Second Most Powerful Man in the Empire
Hello MakingStarWars.net readers! My name is Mike DeRose and you are reading the first installment of a new weekly column titled “You Seek Knowledge.” Going forward I’m going to be examining the subplots (including characters, events, and background details) which shape the action of the Star Wars saga in the new canon. You can contact me on Twitter @livetheforce with any questions, comments, or suggestions for future topics. I hope this ongoing column will be able to help enrich your view of the Skywalker story in ways you may not have realized–or expected–were possible.
The Star Wars story features so many intricate details that it’s nearly impossible to fully comprehend the amount of work that goes into crafting the saga. The core films that follow the Skywalker family tell an entertaining story but there is so much more happening beneath the surface. It’s safe to assume that if you’re reading this article you seek greater knowledge and a deeper understanding of Star Wars as a whole. This weekly column will analyze facts from the canon story to allow us to speculate and appreciate the nuances of a galaxy far, far away.
Using critical thinking to piece together the clues within the entire Star Wars story, we can gain a deeper understanding of how subplots drive the action of the core films. Over time we will be discussing certain events, objects and people that alter the narrative of the story but due to the Skywalker storyline in the films there is not enough screen time available to focus on these little details.
Mas Amedda: The Second Most Powerful Man in the Empire
To introduce this idea we are going to focus on a character that appears harmless at first glance but actually holds the power to manipulate not only the people around him but events on a galactic scale. This character is Mas Amedda, Palpatine’s right-hand man during the prequel films. When I tell people that he is the second most powerful person in the galaxy I’m met with one of two reactions. Either “Who is Mas Amedda?” or “You’re clearly a crazy person.” So for those of you who don’t know who Mas is, he is this glorious Chagrian pictured below:
The first time we meet Mas Amedda he is serving as vice chancellor to Supreme Chancellor Valorum during the events of The Phantom Menace. Valorum’s reign as Chancellor was a complete failure as corruption ran rampant, culminating in a vote of no confidence that was called by Queen Amidala of Naboo. It was Senator Palpatine’s suggestion that this vote be called, which resulted in his election as the new Supreme Chancellor.
It is uncommon following a failed political regime for there to be much carryover from the old leadership to the new one, so it is curious that Palpatine would be willing to keep Mas Amedda on as his second in command. This is our first indication that Mas has been working with Palpatine to undermine Valorum since before the events of The Phantom Menace.
It is very likely that during Valorum’s reign Mas Amedda would have been trusted to act on the Chancellor’s behalf to gain support from the different political parties. However, we can assume that Mas was in fact stoking the flames that caused greater distrust in the Chancellor’s office and weakened his support in the senate. The backdoor dealings Mas would have been working on helped secure support for Palpatine so that by the time the Trade Federation starts the blockade of Naboo the last bit of support Valorum had in the senate would be gone. Palpatine and Amedda, appearing to be on opposite sides of the existing political factions, became a perfect team when no one was paying attention. Valorum became the first major victim of their alliance.
Following Palpatine’s election as Supreme Chancellor very little is known about the period between The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones. As far as the galaxy can tell the senate had been working tirelessly to prevent a mass exodus of Separatist systems, but the viewing audience knows these events had been manipulated by Palpatine to start the Clone Wars. One of the things Palpatine (and his alter ego Darth Sidious) stresses during the early films is the importance of doing things legally. By operating within the letter of the law he is able to secure powers which would be very difficult to take away, rendering those who might oppose him in the senate nearly powerless.
We see one of his biggest legal obstacles in Attack of the Clones when Palpatine is trying to secure a military force for the Republic. Senator Amidala is the most vocal senator against this action and actively fights against the creation of a clone army, thus putting Palpatine’s master plan in jeopardy. To bypass the political logjam Palpatine knows he must be granted emergency powers so he can make executive decisions without dealing with the voting process.
While Senator Amidala would never support this course of action, she has left Senator Jar Jar Binks as her representative to act on her behalf while she is in hiding during Attack of the Clones. Palpatine sees an opportunity to accomplish his goal and trusts Mas Amedda to carry the plan out.
Mas Amedda: This is a crisis. The Senate must vote the Chancellor emergency powers. He can then approve the creation of an army.
Palpatine: But what Senator would have the courage to propose such a radical amendment?
Mas Amedda: If only… Senator Amidala were here.
These two lifetime politicians know exactly how to manipulate the weak-minded (even without the Force). They plant the seeds in Senator Binks’ mind to make him believe Padme would have voted to give the Chancellor emergency powers.
Palpatine’s master plan hinged on this very moment. Had it not worked, the previous ten years of planning would have been ruined, but Palpatine knew he could trust Mas Amedda to read the situation properly and use Senator Binks to achieve their goals of gaining near complete political power. After the clone army is legalized the Clone Wars begin and last for three devastating years. It ends with Palpatine defeating the Jedi, wiping them out nearly to the point of extinction.
The end of Revenge of the Sith culminates in a final showdown between Palpatine and Yoda inside the Senate building. Within moments of Yoda walking into the chamber beneath the senate floor Mas Amedda witnesses Palpatine producing lightning from his fingertips to attack the diminutive Jedi. How does Mas Amedda react when he sees this happen? With slight disinterest before casually walking out of the room. I’m not sure about you, but if I saw my boss do something like that it would come as a pretty big shock. Yet Mas Amedda isn’t shocked at all. That’s because Mas Amedda presumably has known that Palpatine was Darth Sidious the entire time.
The only way Palpatine would be able to pull off his complicated schemes would be to have someone working with him from the beginning to make sure all the angles were covered. Had Palpatine been exposed too early not only would it have ruined his political career and resulted in a lifetime in prison, it would have also put him on the radar of the Jedi. Palpatine manipulated the Republic at highest level with great risk with great risk to himself; he trusted Mas Amedda to help him see it through. It’s logical assume that Mas was quite aware of the power Palpatine yielded, thus realizing any treachery would have resulted in his death. But it is better to be friends with the man who is going to control the galaxy instead of being his enemy. The honest relationship between the two men would allow them function as a political powerhouse and put Mas Amedda in a position to be as close to absolute power as anyone would be allowed beneath Palpatine.
After the events of Revenge of the Sith we see a few glimpses into the inner workings of Imperial politics, with the most telling coming in the novel Tarkin by James Luceno. We read about a meeting of Moffs and other high-ranking Imperial officials on Coruscant and it is in those pages we recognize that Mas Amedda is the one who controls the room, even with Darth Vader and Moff Tarkin present. Tarkin might be in charge of the Death Star project as well as operations in the Outer Rim, but he still must seek permission and receive orders from those ranked above him, which is only Emperor Palpatine and Mas Amedda. We gather that of the people present, Mas Amedda is the only one with the power to oversee all aspects of Imperial operations while everyone else only has slices of territory under their control.
Even Darth Vader wields less power in the Empire than Mas Amedda. That may sound like an outlandish statement, but when we consider the reputation Lord Vader has amongst the Imperials it makes a lot of sense. Dave Filoni once described Vader as a rumor within the Empire with only a few people knowing of his existence. If someone was not part of the inner Imperial circle and encountered Vader, it more than likely means he would not survive the meeting. When Princess Leia comments in A New Hope that Tarkin is “holding Vader’s leash” she is very accurately describing Vader’s position within the Empire. He’s an attack dog, nothing more. Even while possessing the power of the Force, Darth Vader is no more than a tool Palpatine lends out whenever there is need. Vader’s reputation as the Imperial boogeyman only allows him a limited amount of power as he is forced to take orders from anyone that is “holding his leash.”
Mas Amedda does not answer to Darth Vader. Mas Amedda does not answer to Tarkin. Mas Amedda only has one person to answer to and that is Palpatine. By the time A New Hope takes place they have been working together for over 30 years. No one in the galaxy would be able to survive next to Palpatine unless he was intelligent, strong, focused and trustworthy. Mas Amedda helped build the Empire alongside Palpatine, and the reward for his loyalty seems to be near complete control over the Empire and all those who serve beneath him.
You can reach me on twitter @livetheforce